PODCAST 170: Building a Company from the Ground Up with Zach Rego


This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Zach Rego, VP of Sales & Marketing at Unstack.

Building a company from the ground up comes with its set of challenges: calling hundreds of leads, setting up the website, and learning skills as you go. With the right vision, and keeping an eye out for professional opportunities in your current job, you can position yourself for success.

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If you missed episode 169 check it out here: How to Become an Effective Self-Advocate with Mike Feldman

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:10]
  2. Unstack Explained & Insight into an Early Stage Company [2:33]
  3. Zach’s Professional Background [8:21]
  4. The Sales Development Representative Role [15:56]
  5. Running a Marketing Function & Advice for Building a Company [18:09]
  6. Zach’s Biggest Influencers [20:53]
  7. Sam’s Corner [23:14]

Show Introduction [00:10]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody. It’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. Today on the show we’ve got Zach Rego. Zach is a VP of sales and marketing at Unstack. He’s a great sales leader. He talks about building SDR teams. He talks about something that you can do to change your career today and how to get the most out of your job today. And he also just talks about building a company from the ground up because that’s where Unstack is and its growth trajectory. So, great conversation.

Before we get there, we want to thank our sponsors.

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Now without further ado, let’s listen to my conversation with Zach Rego.

Unstack Explained & Insight into an Early Stage Company [2:33]

Sam Jacobs: So what is Unstack?

Zach Rego: Unstack is a no-code marketing platform really meant to empower marketers to build and scale digital businesses. So we work mostly with SAS, founders, marketers, and other digital products. So folks that are selling eBooks or courses online, but really our core customer is a SAS marketer or a founder.

Sam Jacobs: And what do you do for them?

Zach Rego: It starts with a website just because that is their digital presence. But it scales from just a website into landing pages, testing, analytics, dashboard, and contact insights, content, and all the things that a SAS company really needs to thrive online. Our goal is to make those tools work seamlessly together.

Sam Jacobs: How long has the company been around and how big is it?

Zach Rego: The founders started on it close to two years ago. We really haven’t been in market selling for a little over a year. We are 14 employees about to be 15. So still very early stage, but it’s been a lot of fun.

Sam Jacobs: When you take a job and the company is so early stage and you’re in charge of helping them build and grow revenue. Where do you start?

Zach Rego:

  1. Start the interview process by making sure the co-founders are bought into your vision and you’re aligned on where the company is going.
  2. Start hitting the phones; I’ve run a lot of demos and sent a lot of emails.
  3. Start to automate the process. Look at tools to automate email workflows and sequences.

So a lot of the first eight months or so I was working on refining that marketing process, refining that sales process. Now I know what makes people tick after running close to 700 demos.

Sam Jacobs: What was confirmatory about the product and then what’s the one or two things that were surprising to you in some way?

Zach Rego: It’s hard to have a wedge to kind of get your product into the company’s door when a lot of folks are coming to us starting with a website:

  • A website is overwhelming and takes time to plan for. So, we’ve shifted our wedge towards landing pages. Then it becomes really easy to start to build a website because their content, their fonts, their colors, their branding, their media is already kind of on our platform.

Zach’s Professional Background [8:21]

Sam Jacobs: What’s your background? What’s the product experience? I know we were talking offline that this is marketing-driven in some ways, product-led growth experience; but is that your background?

Zach Rego: One thing I’ve learned from every job that I’ve had is what I don’t want to do next.

  • I was in sales, selling consulting services to IT directors and CEOs, fortune 500 companies. I learned quickly that I don’t want to sell services to IT departments.
  • I went to Wordstream: a SAS platform and I loved it. It made me really excited to go to work as a sales rep every day.
  • After 8 years, I moved into a general manager role leading a department which allowed me to get involved with product and marketing.
  • I then wanted to lead more than just sales. I wanted to keep some general manager responsibility but also wanted a company that didn’t rely on a platform like Google or Facebook. This led me to Unstack.

Sam Jacobs: How did you find the Unstack founders originally?

Zach Rego:I just connected with Grant, the CEO, and sent him a message being like, I send this out to a bunch of CEOs when they raise money; super interested in what you’re building. If you ever have any questions or want to run your demo by me, I’m happy to review it. And he took me up on it.

Sam Jacobs: You were at WordStream for a while, did you start just as an individual contributor?

Zach Rego: Yeah, so it was a very early stage at that point. I think we had 12 sales folks, two sales managers, and we doubled that team with my kind of hiring class.

Sam Jacobs: So what was the journey like? I mean, GM is a fantastic role. When you think about your journey upwards? What do you attribute your success to?

Zach Rego:

  • Mentors: I battled with leaders at WordStream a lot and we had our disagreements; I think we always found our way to the other side.
  • Ralph Folz, CEO of Wordstream and on the board of Unstack: still a mentor of mine-always open to sitting down with me or any other sales rep.

Sam Jacobs: And did you build an SDR team at WordStream?

Zach Rego: Yeah. So I started as an AE, became a team lead, managed and sold with four people reporting to me as a team lead, and then transitioned into a manager, built that team up to. And then luckily a sales manager had left and left this team that exclusively sold to agencies kind of high and dry. So I went to the VP, I gave him a proposal and he accepted it and it gave me a much larger team. And it started to really grow. So I grew the agency team to maybe 12 sales reps and added SDRs to that as well, and started testing that model and it worked.

The Sales Development Representative Role [15:56]

Sam Jacobs: So what’s your perspective on just the role of the SDR?

Zach Rego: I loved being a full sales cycle rep. I thought it was nice, it was empowering, I think it increases the velocity of the sale. The way we did, we built the SDR team at WordStream was a little bit different than most. The SDRs, they actually managed old dormant accounts. So 30,000 new emails were entered into our database every month, 3000 of those, let’s say, turned into sales qualified leads across, I’ll say, 30 reps. Well, they can only manage so many inbound leads at that type of velocity. So we said, sales reps get to hold their leads for 90 days. And they’re going to get 98% of their leads, their deals out of it. And the other 2%, there’s something there, but they’re just getting left behind and never worked. So we built an SDR team to route those dormant accounts to and just do a really high touch, what was it, maybe seven calls, seven emails through all of those accounts, just nonstop going on and passing them around. And it worked really well.

Running a Marketing Function & Advice for Building a Company [18:09]

Sam Jacobs: So you’re now running a marketing function, not yet a team, but soon it will be a team. Anything surprised you now that you’ve gotten your wish and you get to run marketing that you didn’t expect?

Zach Rego: Don’t tell anyone, but I know a lot less than I thought I did. I am very much a strategy ideas guy. Execution is way more difficult than the folks that I used to come up with the ideas with. It’s empowering because I get to come up with ideas and go and do them without having to ask. But man, is it challenging not having a team of very talented people around you to come up with ideas and brainstorm with.

Sam Jacobs: Any lessons or key principles around business or your career that you want to share with the audience?

Zach Rego: I think the one that I was asked to do a long time ago was write down the job you want in five years and be thoughtful about it. And maybe it’s not a job. Maybe you want to be the president or CEO of a company and start your own. But sit down and write it out because there are experiences you can gain and get paid for in your current job that you’re missing right now because you haven’t written down exactly what you want to do to go and find opportunities to do it.

Zach’s Biggest Influencers [20:53]

Sam Jacobs: When you think about people that have really influenced you and inspired you, who comes to mind? Who do you think we should know about?

Zach Rego:

All amazing resources, all folks that are very willing to help any salesperson or aspiring entrepreneur. I think of people that I look to outside of my immediate network, I think Ben Horowitz; his book’s amazing.

Sam’s Corner [23:14]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody, Sam’s Corner. Another good conversation. Really enjoyed talking to Zach Rego. Unstack sounds like a really interesting company and I think the concept of a Squarespace, but specifically designed for marketers and or specifically designed to capture leads.

The other thing I liked is just the concept of what you learn when you have hundreds of conversations. That’s what Zach’s been doing over the last year. He had hundreds of conversations and they learned that leading with: hey, build a website is a big ask and it takes a shitload of work. And so they moved to, hey, let’s get a landing page going. And of course, that’s probably, as they said, the wedge, that’s probably the right way to engage and talk to a marketer because marketers are really thinking about lead capture, lead generation a lot, probably more than just building an entire website from nothing.

And then the other thing is the thing that he mentioned at the end about: hey, figure out where you want to go, figure out what experiences you have and what experiences you want. And then look around you where you’re currently working, because inevitably there are opportunities where you work right now that you’re not taking advantage of. So get yourself some exposure. Doesn’t have to mean that it’s your day job. It just means exposure to new experiences so that over time you know more and more, and you’re better and better positioned to get that job that you ultimately want. So that’s my take.

Don’t miss episode #171!

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